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5 ways the food and drink industry can become more sustainable

business-articles5 ways the food and drink industry can become more sustainable

In the wake of the recent COP26 climate summit, sustainability is at the forefront of many of our minds, and it is clear that consumers are looking to businesses to play their part in helping to tackle climate change. 61% of those surveyed by Dutch banking group, ING, said they would be less likely to support an environmentally-damaging company.

This is particularly true in the food and drink industry due we consumers growing increasingly conscious of the environmental impact of their purchases.

According to a report from the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) detailing the environmental impact of UK food consumption, the distribution and retailing of food for the UK creates around 32 million tonnes of carbon, equivalent to 17% of the country’s emissions.

The food and drink industry currently has a huge impact on the health of the planet but with a few minor – or major – adjustments, businesses in the sector can play their part in fighting for a carbon neutral future.

Mindful of Additional Items

Takeaway food is one of the most egregious parts of to waste, with orders often including mountains of disposable, plastic containers, straws and cutlery. These products are one of the most visible kind of waste polluting the environment, which is not only bad for the earth but always bad for business.

Instead, opt for reusable, recyclable and/or biodegradable items, such as wooden cutlery, paper or metal straws and reusable cups and lids. Food and drink businesses can also provide accessible recycle bins on the premises to ensure that all items can be disposed of in an appropriate manner to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in the ocean, parks or streets.

In addition to reducing the amount of waste produced from these disposable items, reusable products can also be an easy method of positive advertising and marketing for businesses.

Use Sustainable Suppliers

A business may have taken all the necessary precautions to reduce the carbon footprint on their premises, however to become completely green they should be cautious of their supply chain, with the aim of trading with similarly eco-minded suppliers.

This may consist of buying produce without – or with reduced levels of – plastic wrapping, and opting wherever possible, for recyclable packaging such as cardboard boxes. By being aware of the type of businesses they interact with, firms can avoid indirectly supporting an environmentally-damaging company.

Furthermore, heavy-goods vehicles currently account for 25% of CO2 emissions; therefore, businesses should aim to reduce food mileage. One means of achieving this is to try and source goods locally. Not only is this more positive for the environment, but it can act as Unique Selling Point for the business.

Stop Food Waste

Per year, food waste accounts for 8% of all greenhouse gases; 45% of fruits and vegetables grown globally is left unused and it’s estimated that 90 million tonnes of food waste is created within the EU.

Yet it is often achievable to use the majority of a product. This includes using leftover fruits in various drinks or desserts, and remaining vegetables can be thrown into soups or stews. Another option is to swap fresh for frozen – this way the produce is still rich in quality and nutrition but won’t go off before it’s used.  

All produce has been an expenditure for the business and thus, anything leftover should be utilised so that outgoing spending is minimalised.

Reduce Water Waste

Although the UK is known for having a wet climate, the amount of rainfall harvested for water consumption is disproportionate to the actual amount used. Currently, many areas of the country have high ‘stress’ levels on water demand and, despite public opinion, has become a scarce resource.

The food and drink industry accounts for 1.8% of Europe’s water use. This is because businesses within this sector place a high demand on kitchen facilities, as well as having a high turnover of customers who are often offered a glass of water immediately, and use the bathroom amenities.

Methods of reducing water waste could include: installing water-saving toilets so there’s less water per flush, not providing customers with water to drink unless requested, and installing low flow spray valves into the kitchen sinks for washing dishes.

Reduce Energy Output

The amount of energy that a single business creates can be astronomical due to refrigeration, heating and other equipment with high-consumption demands. As technology advances, the opportunity to acquire energy-saving tools are openly available, yet only one in eight businesses are being classified as ‘sustainable businesses’.

Small changes that will make a huge impact, such as swapping to energy-saving lightbulbs, installing motion sensor lights instead of leaving them on all the time and installing spot air conditioning, will drastically decrease a business’ energy output without too much hassle.

More advanced methods could include investing in solar panels that can be attached to the roof. This way the business is more self-sufficient, using renewable energy which reduces their carbon footprint and, overtime, has the potential to be more cost-effective.

In Conclusion

The food and drink industry has plenty of opportunities to explore with regards to having greener, more sustainable activity. From minor changes which aren’t difficult to execute, such as reducing food waste by using every viable part of a product, or changing lightbulbs, to substantial transformations such as reconsidering suppliers, businesses within the sector have a wide spectrum of potential eco-friendly avenues to discover.

In this green-conscious climate, it is important that businesses continue to evolve with the trends, not only to do their part to create a healthier planet, but to always maintain a positive customer opinion. As an industry, it has largely become greener over time and has progressed significantly in recent years, however, there is still room for improvement.

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct

Currencies Direct is one of Europe's leading non-bank providers of currency exchange and international payment services. Since we were formed in 1996, we've maintained our focus on providing innovative foreign exchange and international currency transfer services to corporations of all sizes, online sellers and private individuals. We have also expanded our services to provide dynamic and pioneering "business to business" solutions to help companies, tier 2/3 banks and other non-bank financial institutions to process their international payments. Our headquarters are in the City of London (United Kingdom) and we have operations in continental Europe, Africa, Asia, and the United States. Currencies Direct is jointly owned by private equity firms Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital.

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